We were super excited to meet up with twin sisters Kathryn and Lizzie Fortunato when they were in Houston for a trunk show at Ann Mashburn. As the founders of Lizzie Fortunato jewelry, Kathryn and Lizzie have built a brand from the ground up into a fashion world household name. Their collections of statement jewelry and accessories are coveted by fashion editors, trendsetters, influencers, and loyal customers. What is so refreshing about Lizzie and Kathryn is that with all of their talent and success, they are incredibly kind and down to earth. We loved catching up with them about their brand and learning how their partnership looks (Kathryn is the business side and Lizzie is the design side). How fun would it be to work with your twin?! Read on below to learn how they built their company and for a few tips on where to visit next time you’re in New York!


Photo by Jennifer Young Studio


Where did you two go to college?

Duke University (we went together, as we do most everything)

Where are you from originally? 

Wilmington, Delaware

We are huge fans of your brand and beautiful designs! Tell us a little about both of your career journeys before launching LF and how you ended up here.

KF: Lizzie and I attended Duke University together where she majored in English and Art History and I in Economics. We started Lizzie Fortunato a bit accidentally; Lizzie was making jewelry in undergrad as a hobby and we would wear it around campus. Our Duke classmates began to catch on and ask where we had gotten our jewelry. Upon learning that Lizzie was the designer and creator behind the pieces, they were soon buying jewelry from our dorm room. During sophomore year, we bunked our dorm room beds, brought in Lizzie’s sewing machine, signed up for some of the same classes (so Lizzie could have more time to design and create) and hosted semi-annual trunk shows to sell our creations (and subsidize spring breaks to Paris!). We became known around campus for our jewelry designs and created a loyal group of Lizzie Fortunato customers who followed us to NYC when we graduated in 2006.

After college, Lizzie started a career in Fashion PR while I worked late hours in a 24/7 finance job on Wall Street. It only took Lizzie around 10 months to learn that Fashion PR was not her calling, so in 2007 she took the plunge, quit her corporate job, and officially launched Lizzie Fortunato from our small walk-up apartment on Houston Street in New York City’s Lower East Side. From there Lizzie designed, created, sold and packed our early store orders and we both would “pound the pavement” on weekends to identify new stores. It was three years later, in 2010, that I too left my corporate job to join our growing accessories business full-time.

Kathryn is the business side and Lizzie is the design – what do your day to day schedules typically look like?

KF: This spring is our 10 year anniversary, and our team is more built out these days, so now we both manae our respective “worlds” on a day-to-day basis. For me, a typical day includes what feels like 1,000 emails; managing our wholesale team and retailer relationships (all of our sales are done “in-house” and we work with over 100 accounts, from large department stores to small brick & mortar boutiques); overseeing operations and logistics (including production and fulfillment, as our line is primarily created locally and shipped from our office); and doing a lot of HR and financials. I joke that on a given day I take out the trash, change the lightbulbs, run payroll and get to talk to some of the best retailers in the country – it’s a pretty wide range!

LF: I am really lucky that I have a twin sister / business partner to handle a lot of the HR, financial, and administrative parts of our business. It has allowed me a lot more time to lead the creative direction like developing new styles, seasonal collections and product categories. With that said, it feels like a small part of my time is actually spent on true design. I spend a lot of my day going back and forth with our vendors; creating technical specs for products; teaching our assembly team how to make pieces to match my original samples (I handmake most all first samples); and working on other aspects of the brand like graphic design, web, social media, press and more. The days fly by and normally my most in-depth interaction with Kathryn is if I text her to run outside for lunch together or on our subway commutes to and from work (we both live in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn and sometimes our most valuable “brainstorming” time together is on our 30 minute subway commute).

How would both of you describe your working style in three words?

KF: Focused, thorough, inclusive.

LF: Detail-oriented, passionate, perfectionist.

Lizzie Fortunato launched in 2008. How has the brand evolved in the past decade and and where do you see it 10 years down the road?

KF: We are really proud of the fact that our growth has been slow and steady. We’ve never received any investment, so have built the business pretty organically from the ground up. Given this, our brand evolution has been measured, with our collections, wholesale distribution, website and direct e-commerce channel, and brand visibility increasing at a healthy, but not explosive, pace. This measured growth has allowed us to be thoughtful about where we allocate resources and how we position the brand. We’ve been very careful about keeping our wholesale distribution limited to top tier stores and making sure that even as our collections grow, the product stays true to our original principles of slow and thoughtful production.

LF: A few years after our launch we introduced leather goods which are now a meaningful product category for the business. This was a natural evolution because at the time, we were incorporating a lot of beading and embroidery in our jewelry, so it made sense to move into clutches and purses where we could celebrate the novelty embroidery in a more meaningful way. Similarly, we created “Fortune Finds” in 2014 to share our favorite “finds” – in the form of art objects and home goods from our travels and creative community  – on our direct e-commerce channel. Fortune Finds has grown into a really exciting arm of the brand where we are able to share our favorite artists, ceramicists, textiles, etc. directly with our customer. This development has created an increasing “lifestyle” feel to the brand which is really important to us.

For the time being, we are most focused on sustainabliity. We want to build our team and collection in a meaningful way where we maintain the integrity of our product while slowly and strategically growing our brand presence.

Lizzie Fortunato has become a coveted brand by fashionistas, trendsetters, and notable women. What steps and decisions do you think have been crucial to your success? Any fun starstruck moments when someone famous or someone you admire wore your pieces?

KF: It sounds cliché, but being true to your vision is really important. We’ve found that it’s our most authentic moments that resonate the most with our customers. Trying to be something we’re not almost never pays off.

LF: Yes! I once woke up to a personalized thank you email from Julianne Moore after she wore a necklace of ours. I was absolutely floored. I am a huge ManRepeller fan so when she wears Lizzie Fortunato, I constantly get a high – she is surrounded by so much amazing product that having her choose to wear our necklaces is the ultimate compliment. But it’s equally flattering when non-celebrities covet our pieces. We love nothing more than getting an email from a customer who tells us about how many compliments they receive when wearing our pieces or how wearing one of our designs made them feel great. That’s the ultimate flattery.

Tell us a little about the inspiration behind your current collection and your favorite pieces available right now?

LF: Spring / Summer’18 is a super personal collection for me as it was inspired by my August wedding in upstate New York. With its endless wildflowers, magical light, and rolling hills, my Hudson Valley wedding put me in a dreamy, nostalgic mood for SS18. The resulting pieces definitely reflect this state of mind. There are lots of golden-hued styles, plenty of incredible floral components and patterns and a personal favorite of mine are our new “Best Lady” necklace styles, which were designed after the pieces that my two Best Ladies wore for the wedding. A few favorites right now include the Bronze Collar, Gemini Necklace, Pastel Column Earrings, Arc Cuff, Port of Call Clutch, and our Beatrice Purse.

We caught up with you at your Ann Mashburn trunk show in Houston, which is such a beautiful, well-curated store. What do you look for in retail partners?  

KF: Our wholesale partners are such a crucial part of our business and we really appreciate and respect the relationships that we’ve built with them over the years. Ann Mashburn went from being an icon of ours to a true friend and mentor – and she’s still a bit of an icon! We consider the retailer’s location (we are sensitive about not being overly saturated in a certain area), the other brands the store carries, the price points that sell well for the retailer, and the general aesthetic and point of view that the retailer brings to the table. All of these factors are crucial in the absence of Lizzie and I being in the store to sell the product ourselves; we want to make sure that the retail partner is an on-brand representation of Lizzie Fortunato and a strategic partner in terms of building a successful business relationship.

You both are recently married which is so exciting. How do you find balance and time for your relationships and yourselves in the midst of running a successful company?

KF: Well our guys are amazing. We both married men who are incredibly understanding and supportive of our packed schedules, frequent travels, and late nights at the office.  But after 10 years, we’ve also learned that there is always more work to be done and so, taking time out for yourself (and your relationship) is crucial.

LF: Yeah, I’ve prioritized exercise a lot more these days. Now it feels like going to a yoga or cycling class is a true luxury and I love getting up early to give myself that time. And when it comes to relationships: Friday and Saturday nights are pretty sacred. These days we love nothing more than chilling in our Brooklyn apartment cooking and drinking wine together and catching up after an insane week.

You recently launched a store in East Village with your jewelry and accessories, and also finds from your travels. Where are your favorite travel destinations and what is next on the list?

LF: Yes! That was a holiday pop-up (it just closed in late January but we can’t wait for our next one). Some of our favorite travel destinations include Morocco — we really want to go back and visit Fez where we haven’t yet been to source their incredible ceramics, Japan (I absolutely loved visiting Japan and really want to return) and upstate NY (a little more realistic when time and money are factors – but still a beautiful place to get away).

KF: I got married in Portugal last year so it holds a special place in my heart. The country is small but rich with so many beautiful places and such incredible food, art and design. I sourced these amazing handmade wool rugs on my last trip there that I am in love with (and that we’re selling via Fortune Finds) and want to return to explore more.

What is Your Ideal Saturday in New York City?

LF: Wake up; lounge in Brooklyn apartment; walk to Golda for the best coffee and egg sandwich in the coolest designed space [by The MP Shift]; walk around Clinton Hill or maybe go to a movie at BAM. I love hitting up Sacred Yoga for a late afternoon class and then either cooking and entertaining with friends at our house or maybe going out to dinner with Kathryn and Nick [her husband] at one of our favorite neighborhood spots (The Finch, Otway, Roman’s).

KF: Mine is pretty similar! We travel so much that hanging in Brooklyn on a low key weekend is a dream. I have outdoor space so when the weather is nice, sitting outside with a coffee and magazine is the best. Nick loves to cook, so oftentimes we’ll walk across the park to the Fort Greene farmers market to buy groceries and flowers and we inevitably run into plenty of neighborhood friends, like Margot of Manufacture Pascal, Taylor Patterson of Fox Fodder Farm, Elisa and Dylan who own Walter Foods. On the walk home I may stop in the Fort Greene outpost of Bird Boutique, undoubtedly the best clothing store in Brooklyn. I am a workaholic so I might find myself catching up to emails a bit on a Saturday but that gives me peace of mind – along with a yoga class with Lizzie – and then dinner in the hood.

What Does Your Morning Routine Look Like?

KF: On routine work days we meet at the subway (Lizzie jokes that despite living 3 blocks closer, I am always there after her) and commute to our Lower East Side studio together. We pick up coffee on the way in at Café Grumpy, El Rey, Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop, or Ludlow Coffee – we are spoiled to have a lot of options!

LF: These days, if it’s not a super busy day, or if we don’t have an AM meeting with an editor, we might sneak to an early FlyWheel or Yoga class before work. It’s such a good way to start the day and I still have time to cruise my favorite blogs and websites before the work day begins.

What Are Your Go-To Brands?

Both: Apiece Apart, Dries van Noten, Demylee (for the best winter sweaters), Sacai, Ann Masburn.

Are you both forever New Yorkers? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Both: It’s the million dollar question! But for now we can’t imagine ourselves anywhere else.


Be sure to follow Lizzie and Kathryn on Instagram for their latest new drool-worthy designs!